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American Ballet Theatre: Le Corsaire 2017
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American Ballet Theatre: Le Corsaire 2017

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American Ballet Theatre

Le Corsaire 2017

David H. Koch Theater

Kevin McKenzie, Artistic Director
Kara Medoff Barnett, Executive Director
Alexei Ratmansky, Artist in Residence
Clinton Luckett, Assistant Artistic Director
Susan Jones, Principal Ballet Mistress
Ballet Masters: Irina Kolpakova,
Carlos Lopez, Nancy Raffa, Keith Roberts
Ormsby Wilkins, Music Director
Kelly Ryan, Director of Press and Public Relations
Jenny Lee, Director of Marketing
Susie Morgan Taylor, Manager of Press and Online Media

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
June 8, 2017

(Read More ABT Reviews)

(See a Conversation with Conductor, David LaMarche, on the Spring Season Ballet Music.)

Le Corsaire (1856, Paris; 1998, ABT): Staged by Anna-Marie Holmes after Marius Petipa and Konstantin Sergeyev, Music by Adolphe Adam, Cesare Pugni, Leo Delibes, Riccardo Drigo, and Prince Oldenbourg, Music reorchestrated by Kevin Galie, Libretto by Jules-Henri de Saint-Georges and Joseph Mazilier in a version by Anna-Marie Holmes, Based on “The Corsair” (1814) by Lord Byron, Sets and Costumes by Irina Tibilova, Additional Costume design by Robert Perdziola, Lighting by Mary Jo Dondlinger.

This sumptuous ballet takes place in Turkey. In a busy bazaar, slave girls are being traded, but a pirate, Conrad, falls in love with one, Medora, who is the object of desire of the Pasha, who has already bought her and her friend, Gulnare, from Lankendem, owner of the bazaar. Conrad and his pirates kidnap Lankendem and steal Medora. In Conrad’s grotto, after the infamous slave dance, Medora persuades him to free all the slave girls. Birbanto tries to thwart his master and help the pirates keep the slaves, and, after first losing one battle, he drugs his master with a potion on a rose. Medora saves her pirate from his mutinous men, and wounds Birbanto. After additional small battles, Conrad pursues Medora, now stolen by Lankendem.

Back at the Pasha’s palace, and within a dream garden, the Pasha delights in his purchased slaves, Medora and Gulnare, and dreams about all of his women in shades of pastel. When the Pasha invites some pilgrims into the palace, they are actually Conrad, Birbanto, and the pirates, and they reclaim Medora and Gulnare, who exposes Birbanto as a traitor. Conrad shoots his assistant, and Ali, the slave, helps Medora, Conrad, and Gulnare escape on a ship. A storm brews, and the ship sinks. Everyone perishes, but Conrad and Medora, who remain clinging to a rock, from the strength of their love. (ABT Program Notes).

Cast on June 7, 2017 Matinee:

Conductor: David LaMarche, Performed by Alban Lendorf as Conrad, Arron Scott as Birbanto, his friend, Daniil Simkin as Ali, the slave, Gabe Stone Shayer as Lankendem, owner of the bazaar, Christine Shevchenko as Medora, a young Greek woman, Stella Abrera as Gulnare, Medora’s friend, Alexei Agoudine as Seyd, Pasha of the Isle of Cos, Alexandra Basmagy as Lead Pirate Woman, Melanie Hamrick, Lauren Post, April Giangeruso as Odalisques, Alexandra Basmagy and Arron Scott and Company in Pirates’ Dance and Forband, Patrick Frenette as Pasha’s Assistant, and the Company as Pirates, Pirate Women, Red Guards, Merchants, Bazaar Women, Pirates’ Dance, Forband, Women in Yellow, Women in Orange, Women in Red, Pasha’s Wives, and Children from the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School at ABT.

Cast on June 8, 2017:

Conductor: Ormsby Wilkins, Performed by Herman Cornejo as Conrad, Craig Salstein as Birbanto, his friend, Jeffrey Cirio as Ali, the slave, Daniil Simkin as Lankendem, owner of the bazaar, Skylar Brandt as Medora, a young Greek woman, Sarah Lane as Gulnare, Medora’s friend, Roman Zhurbin as Seyd, Pasha of the Isle of Cos, Zhong-Jing Fang as Lead Pirate Woman, Katherine Williams, April Giangeruso, Cassandra Trenary as Odalisques, Zhong-Jing Fang and Craig Salstein and Company in Pirates’ Dance and Forband, Alexei Agoudine as Pasha’s Assistant, and the Company as Pirates, Pirate Women, Red Guards, Merchants, Bazaar Women, Pirates’ Dance, Forband, Women in Yellow, Women in Orange, Women in Red, Pasha’s Wives, and Children from the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School at ABT.

It was thrilling to see Le Corsaire again, on two consecutive days, with its virtuosic athletics for Conrad the pirate, Ali the Slave, and Medora, the “young Greek woman”, who’s constantly being sold as a slave with her friend Gulnare, before escaping amidst numerous adventures and a dream sequence. On the 7th, the audience was vocally enthused with Alban Lendorf’s incredibly muscular leaps, close-body spins, and rapid leg twirls, in the role of Conrad. Partnering Christine Shevchenko, with thick chemistry, he and Ms. Shevchenko were well matched for physicality and ebullience. Ms. Shevchenko has extraordinary technical prowess and inherent dramatization. Stella Abrera, as Gulnare, was effervescent throughout, breathtaking in her partnered dances, exuding pathos and yearning in her theatrical moments of capture and escape.

As Ali the slave, a pivotal role in all ballet repertoire, with featured solos that often appear in galas and festivals, Daniil Simkin was fully confident and poised. Although he lacks the muscular heft of past Alis, such as Carreño, Corella, and Cornejo, in Ballet Theatre’s golden days, he adds technical fire power to his aerobic and athletic solos, especially those for which the audience waits with baited breath. Gabe Stone Shayer, as Lankendem, the bazaar owner, who demands bags of coins for Medora and Gulnare, was too campy, but still seething. Arron Scott, as Birbanto, Conrad’s deceptive and conniving friend, was also in fine form, making the most of the stage in the Pirates’ Dance and the “Forband” with Alexandra Basmagy, the lead pirate woman. Alexei Agoudine was precious and entertaining as the bumbling Seyd, Pasha of the isle of Cos.

On the 8th, the audience was thrilled with Herman Cornejo’s performance in the role of Conrad, partnering Skylar Brandt, Soloist, filling in for Maria Kotchetkova as Medora. Ms. Brandt was glowing, eloquent, and aerobic in her solos, and, in her shimmering Pas de Deux, she was mesmerizing. Mr. Cornejo, in his solos, had primal leaps and dynamic presence, not only in motion but in mime, along with Craig Salstein, who was Birbanto. In proof of his extraordinary talent, Daniil Simkin re-appeared tonight as Lankendem, whereas the night before he was Ali the Slave. Although Lankendem does not showcase Mr. Simkin’s mid-air cartwheels, leaps, and flourishes, the role is steeped in comedic drama. Jeffrey Cirio, a virtuosic performer, was Ali, the slave, tonight, and it was his turn for backward leaps that defy gravity. Mr. Salstein’s fine Birbanto and his “Pirates’ Dance” and “Forband” with Zhong-Jing Fang (as Lead Pirate Woman) were lightning quick. David LaMarche conducted on the 7th, and Ormsby Wilkins on the 8th, both keeping the mixed, Adam-Pugni-Delibes-Drigo-Oldenbourg score vivacious and fervent.

Once again, it appears from the program notes that the new 2013 scenic design by Christian Prego, costume design by Anibal Lapiz, and lighting design by Brad Fields have been replaced by the original, as noted above. In 2013 the ballet had been rejuvenated with the new sets, costumes, and lighting, but perhaps there were issues. Of particular note, in Soloist and Corps roles, the three Odalisques on the 7th, Melanie Hamrick, Lauren Post, and April Giangeruso, were especially enticing, for nuanced gesture, even in side-stage, off-moments. Their musical momentum and poise were notable. Also on the 7th, Patrick Frenette, as Pasha’s Assistant, was magnetic with persona, and, on both nights, the eight-man casts for the Pirates were each gripping. Kudos to the children from the JKO Ballet School for their stunning Jardin Animé dancing with floral hoops.

Christine Shevchenko with Cast in "Le Corsaire"
Courtesy of Rosalie O’Connor

Skylar Brandt and Herman Cornejo
with Cast in "Le Corsaire"
Courtesy of Rosalie O’Connor

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at